Conan O’Brien brought his 28-year career in late-night television to a close with a sweet list of thank yous, bringing an end to his linear small-screen career that has consisted of over 4,000 hours of TV.
Much like his final episode of The Tonight Show, he brought on Will Ferrell, via Zoom, as well as Jack Black as his final in-studio guest for his eponymous TBS show.
The hour-long finale started with a bang with his old friend Homer Simpson.
The cold-open was a skit from The Simpsons, which O’Brien previously wrote on, and started with Homer saying, “Oh my god, you’re one of the Impractical Jokers”. When an animated Conan stresses he was a talk-show host, the nuclear worker replies, “Ah, a dying breed. There’s only like 800 of you left”.
“It’s hard to believe it’s our final show on TBS,” O’Brien said. “Every night, I always said we had a really great show. I was often lying. But tonight, we really do have a great show. And if we don’t, what are you going to do about it? I’ll be long gone.”
Ferrell joked that he couldn’t be with Conan in person as he was shooting Batman in Boston (“In this version, Batman gives oral”) and then wishes him all the best. Having previously said goodbye to O’Brien on Late Night and The Tonight Show. “It’s fucking exhausting,” he jokes, before pre-taping some goodbye videos for O’Brien’s HBO Max show, and when he ends up on Al Jazeera, MTV3 and his own Delta Inflight talkshow.
The episode featured clips of his favorite guests over the years including Steve Martin, Martin Short, Harrison Ford, Sophie Turner, Betty White, Zach Galifianakis, Nicole Byers and Tom Hanks as well as footage of O’Brien travel shows in countries including Cuba, Armenia, Haiti and Ghana.
Tenacious D star Jack Black emerged as O’Brien’s final guest, although, and it appears to be a true story, that the pair had hoped to tape a skit where Black injures himself while singing goodbye. However, Black, in fact sprained his ankle during the pre-tape and the fake ambulance and parademics weren’t much help, preventing him from going as big as he’d hoped.
“It felt fitting for our show,” said O’Brien. “When Carson and Letterman, all of these legends go off the air, everything is meticulous. Of course, we would think of a bit where Jack pretends to get hurt and when filming it, Jack gets hurt. We’re the only show in the history of the medium that would actually do that.”
“Johnny would have had Jack shot,” jokes O’Brien’s trusty sidekick.
It was at this point in the show, where things got serious. O’Brien began his thank yous.
“11 years ago, I made a decision to come to TBS, at the time, a lot of people were really surprised I did that. They didn’t think that would be the move. I did it for one reason, a guy named Steve Koonin came to me, one of the loveliest men in showbusiness, and said I will protect you, I will let you and your people do what you want and I will never interfere and we’ll support you 100%. They did that in every single way. They were extraordinary and lovely. I’d have gone away a long time if it weren’t for them,” he said.
He then thanked executives, writers, agents, managers, friends and family including David Levy, Kevin Reilly, Brett Weiss, Jenn Cohen, Gavin Polone, Rick Rosen, Jeff Ross, Andy Richter, Mike Sweeney, Matt O’Brien, Jason Chillemi, and Sarah Federowicz.
Apart from his wife, he saved his final thanks to Lisa Kudrow, who he said gave him the confidence to go for it, and Lorne Michaels, who suggested to NBC that he was the right man. “In 1993, When I was chosen to replace David Letterman, people thought it was a batshit crazy stupid idea. I had no experience, I shouldn’t have had the job. One man changed my life, Lorne Michaels put his credibility on the line… he changed my life.”
For his final thought before he moves over to HBO Max for a new, as-yet-undefined show, he said, “I’ve devoted all of my adult life to pursuing this phantom intersection between smart and stupid. There’s a lot of people that believe that the two can’t co-exist but I will tell you that when [they] come together, it’s the most beautiful thing in the world.”
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